Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | 12:30 a.m.
A few months ago, Casey Flair was thinking it would be great if a football playing career worked out after his days at UNLV were numbered.
If not? Oh well. He was closing in on a master's degree in public administration. All good.
Things change, though.
"Football's gonna work out," he said defiantly following Saturday's United Football League tryouts at Sam Boyd Stadium. "I'm gonna make it work out somewhere. It's my dream, and I'm not ready to give it up yet."
Flair at one point last season became the Rebels' all-time leading pass-catcher before junior teammate Ryan Wolfe passed him up. He finished his career with 202 receptions for 2,380 yards and 13 scores. He was reliable and without question UNLV's most valuable vocal leader during a 5-7 2008 campaign.
The entire Mountain West Conference took notice, but now he's just trying to catch one more set of eyes.
"In this business, it's all about finding one person who likes you to keep you going on," Flair said. "I feel like I did (well on Saturday). I didn't have any drops, turned some defensive backs' hips around and had a solid day catching balls and making things happen."
Flair made up for a 4.64 time in the 40-yard dash by snaring each catchable ball thrown his way during one-on-one drills. Those included catches while taking contact over the middle, despite tryouts being conducted without pads or helmets.
"I felt like I had a good day," Flair said afterwards while catching his breath. "It's kind of an up-in-the-air kind of thing, but they said it's the next few weeks when we should know. Just gotta keep praying, keep pushing."
After showing his sure hands to close the two-hour tryout, Flair stuck around the field for awhile and took some time to introduce himself to Jim Fassel, the veteran NFL coach who will man the sidelines for the Las Vegas team in the UFL, which begins play in October consisting of four teams and a six-game regular season schedule.
Every little bit of networking helps.
"Nothing's written in stone until you sign on the dotted line," he said. "I thought I had a good day, depending on what the coaches see on film. All I can do is get back in the weight room and try to keep getting better. That's the game of football. You can never just stand still."
Standing still is something Flair has avoided like the plague since his senior season ended with a disappointing 42-21 loss at San Diego State last November.
He spends much of his work at the Philippi Sports Institute, having put on noticeable size on his upper body.
To keep his skills sharp, he runs routes with his former Rebels teammates two nights a week, working with the third team, hanging back in the weeds but still getting his reps in.
It's that same work ethic which took him towards the top of the UNLV record books after coming to campus five years ago as a longshot walk-on from Alaska under former coach John Robinson.
"The positive thing for me with the UFL is I could get to play for Las Vegas again, if that opportunity arises," he said. "This is where I made a name for myself, and I just think it'd be really big for me. I've made a home for myself here, it's kinda my second home, and it's nice to play in your hometown."
Playing in Las Vegas, should Flair be rewarded with the opportunity, could put him in an interesting spot. It's widely rumored that former NFL superstar Michael Vick, recently released from prison for financially backing a dog fighting ring, is being pursued by the league, potentially to man the Las Vegas offense.
The players at Saturday's tryout -- Flair included -- were certainly aware of this.
Call it a marketing ploy to help get the league off the ground if you will. Flair considers it potential good luck, which he certainly wouldn't turn down at this point.
"Their motto is 'where the future stars of the NFL play,'" Flair said. "He's already been a star, so now he's trying to get back there, so it'd be big. For me personally, if I got a chance ot play for the Vegas team, I could go from catching balls from Omar Clayton, who's probably going to leave UNLV as the all-time leading quarterback in program history, to catching balls from Mike Vick.
"So I could be getting lucky here."